In times of turbulence for the Utah Jazz, Joe Ingles and Georges Niang deliver some much-needed levity

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) and Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang (31) as the Utah Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder in their NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Mon. Dec. 9, 2019.

Quin Snyder was clearly dubious of the premise when asked if having some high-spirited guys on the roster — like, say, Joe Ingles and Georges Niang — could be particularly helpful during a time when the team is struggling.

“So, the locker room is depressed, and Joe and Georges are funny?” he asked in sarcastic reply.


OK, no — the Jazz locker room isn’t depressed. And Wednesday night’s offensive outburst in Minneapolis surely went a long way toward calming whatever frayed nerves that existed following Monday’s meltdown against OKC.

Thing is, the players themselves aren’t quite so dismissive of the general importance of having teammates around who can help keep the atmosphere light, who can provide a little levity — even if they aren’t totally sure what “levity” means.

“Um, can you give the language of origin of that word?” Niang asked, all Spelling Bee-like, before ironically going on to provide some actual levity in his response about the role he and Ingles play in keeping things from getting overly serious. “We’re two light-hearted guys, we like to have a lot of fun. Life is good for both of us. Well, at least for me,” he added. “I’m unathletic — who ever thought I would be here?”

Ingles, meanwhile, sarcastically shot down the idea that he’s funny at all.

“Nah, I’m really serious,” he deadpanned.


No less than Donovan Mitchell, who is himself known for posting faux-mocking videos of teammates on his Instagram account, said those two play an important role — beyond what they do on the court — with the attitudes they present.

While conceding that Jazz players all realize how good they’ve got it in the grand scheme of things, he added that they are nevertheless not immune to the notion of work stress.

“Outside of having one of the best jobs in the world,” Mitchell said, “there are days where you just get tired, where you have a streak like what we did, and things kind of start to loom over your head. It’s natural.”

Even Snyder ultimately acknowledged that humor and frivolity have their place, provided that people realize when it’s timely and appropriate, and recognize when to leave it behind.

“I think perspective is a good thing, particularly when we haven’t played well, and you’re trying to find some continuity and working hard to execute better and play through it. So, if you can have perspective with realism, that helps you approach your job in a more productive way,” he said. “Both Joe and Georges, because there’s no doubt how much they care, and they play hard, and they’re both team guys, there’s moments where levity or comedy, or whatever the case may be, are helpful. I think those guys both know the line, because they do compete, so it doesn’t get lost.”

Ingles said that’s never an issue, noting of Niang, “When he’s here, he works his ass off.

“Between me and him,” Ingles added, “we can keep everyone’s minds fresh when we need to, and when we need to lock in, everyone knows when that time is.”

So, then, what tales might be told of things those guys do outside of their publicly-displayed antics? Actually, no one wanted to reveal any details.

“I’m gonna keep those in the locker room,” Niang said.

Royce O’Neale, donning a postgame sweatshirt bearing the message “STOP SNITCHING,” said, “I ain’t gonna say nothing.” Mitchell, listening in nearby, teasingly chimed in, “Hey, stop snitching!” to which O’Neale replied, “Exactly! That’s why I ain’t telling him nothing he wants me to tell!”

Bojan Bogdanovic, perhaps unaware that even the smallest revelation violates the team’s apparent code of omertà, noted that Ingles gets a kick out of eavesdropping upon conversations and then mocking the participants, while Niang has a fondness for impersonating teammates’ mannerisms, and is known for a particularly wicked impression of Rudy Gobert. But he then, too, shut down: “I don’t really have any stories.”

Which really only leaves one question — is Ingles or Niang the Jazz’s resident king funnyman? Well, that apparently depends upon who you ask.

Niang, for instance, disputed the idea that it’s a two-man race, arguing, “I just think there’s guys that aren’t willing to show you guys their personal side. There’s a lot of funny characters on this team.” He went on to name newcomers Ed Davis and Emmanuel Mudiay as the team’s under-the-radar pranksters. Still, while those two and fellow newbie Jeff Green went on to garner some honorable mentions votes, just about everyone asked inevitably named one of the usual suspects.

“Joe is probably the best one,” said Bogdanovic. “He talks a lot, obviously, and then he’s making fun of all of us in the locker room. He’s the main guy. … He jumps into every single conversation.”

Mitchell, meanwhile, was Team Niang: “Georges deserves the biggest credit for that, for sure. I haven’t seen him have a bad day in my three years,” he said. “[The other day], we were playing pick-up, and him just talking smack, talking junk, had me going crazy.”

O’Neale was Jingles all the way (“People don’t realize how funny Joe is, even though he be very sarcastic”), while former Jazz guard Grayson Allen, who was back in town with the Grizzlies last Saturday, went the other way: “I’d say Georges more than Joe,” Allen said. “Joe acts serious, but most of the time he’s joking. Georges doesn’t know how to be serious.”

Actually, Niang proved that wasn’t true, when asked the source of his carefree nature.

“I love coming to work every day, doing what I love. I have a blast. I think sometimes we get too honed in on the negative things when this is a blessing that we have,” he said. “This is a game that we … fell in love with and played for no money, or any accolade. So just get out there and do that.”


At Vivint SmartHome Arena

Tipoff • 7 p.m.

TV • AT&T SportsNet

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 14-11; Warriors 5-21

Last meeting • Jazz, 113-109 (Nov. 22)

About the Jazz • Utah has won both meetings vs. Golden State so far this season, and six of their past eight matchups overall. … Donovan Mitchell’s 30-point effort against the Wolves on Wednesday was the sixth time this season he’s hit that scoring threshold. … Point guard Mike Conley will miss his fifth straight game with left hamstring tightness.

About the Warriors • Golden State’s streak of 10 straight wins vs. the Knicks was snapped with Wednesday’s 124-122 overtime defeat. … Former Jazz guard Alec Burks has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games (averaging 16.8 points per game in that span). … Among all rookies, forward Eric Pascall ranks third in scoring (16.1), fifth in rebounding (5.0), and third in field goal percentage (49.3%).